The SLC participated in many battles throughout the war. it was during the notable battle of Wotje Island, part of the Marshall Islands, that the SLC earned the title of “The One-Ship Fleet” from the United States and “Public Enemy Number One” from the Japanese.
The ship criss-crossed the Pacific as the battles of the war grew more and more intense. Her heroism was marked by participation in the second battle of Savo Island where the SLC, assisted by other ships, sank one heavy cruiser, one light cruiser, one destroyer, one transport, one submarine tender and three other auxiliaries.
“During that battle,” said Lewis, “with the light cruiser Boise afire and being pounded by enemy fire, the SLC ran between the Boise and the enemy to shield the American ship from fire. The SLC blasted the rival ship out of the water.”
But the ship was not always successful in aiding its country while avoiding danger. Five onboard the SLC were killed and another destroyer in the fleet was lost when the ship was hit at Guadacanal. It then spent four months undergoing repairs but rejoined the fleet in time to take on the Battle of Komandorski in the Aleutians on March 26th, 1943 when the SLC, one light cruiser and four destroyers took on two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and six destroyers of the Japanese Navy. Again the SLC was hit. For a time her crew, as the ship lay paralyzed from fire, thought it had seen the end, but after being provided cover by other ships, she was able to come back to life and resume battle.
More repairs were done on the ship and she bounced back into action to join the invasion group of Tarawa and ultimately was to steam into the Japanese port of Ominato at the close of the war to accept the port’s surrender.
In 1946 the ship was taken to the Bikini Atoll where she survived both of the United State’s atomic bomb tests. Over-radiation during the testing spelled the end for the ship.
Built in 1926 at Camden, N.J., the ship had been commissioned in 1929 to begin her naval career. When the war broke out in the Pacific she was no youngster, Lewis said. her guns may have been considered antiquated in comparison to the ships that were then being built, but the 10 eight-inch, eight five-inch and four turret guns effectively quelled many a Japanese ship in battle.
The ship went down on May 25th, 1948, a veteran of 31 Pacific Naval battles.
Two swift and clean torpedo hits sank the cruiser after bombs, shells and rockets from 15 ships and scores of planes had battered her sturdy hull for about five hours during gunnery-bombing exercises for the 1st Task Fleet off the California coast.
The grave of the SLC is in the Great Depths, 130 miles off Southern CA. coast where she lies in more than 2,000 fathoms of water.